19 May 2003 | The Fox-2
More Pokemon fun for the fans, but marketing could be better
Here we are at "Pokemon Heroes," the latest installment in the Pokemon movie series. I know the naysayers among you are thinking, "What? ANOTHER Pokemon movie? Why are they beating this 'dead' franchise?" Though it's far from the powerhouse that it once was, Pokemon still enjoys a level of popularity in the U.S. that justifies the release of a new movie every year (the cards and videogames still sell briskly to this day). Cross the ocean to Japan, and you'll see that Pokemon is STILL going strong after all this time; the 6th Pokemon movie has just been released over there, and Japanese Pokemon merchandising continues heartily.
"Pokemon Heroes" finds our protagonist, one Ash Ketchum, his ever present Pikachu, and pals Misty and Brock traveling through the Venice-like city of Alto Mare. It is said that Alto Mare is guarded by the spirits of Pokemon siblings Latios (brother) and Latias (sister), whose father, long ago, brought water to the city and saved the people from rogue Pokemon who had been terrorizing the city. Once again, Alto Mare is in danger, but the threat comes not so much from evil Pokemon, but from the ever dangerous Team Rocket. However, it is not the blundering Jessie, James and Meowth (and now also Wobbuffet) who pose the threat, but the graceful and stylish Annie and Oakley who look to rule Alto Mare (and eventually the world) and capture Latios and Latias to present to the Team Rocket boss as prizes. Latias, who has been roaming the city disguised as a local girl, takes a shine to Ash, who inevitably becomes involved in the siblings' struggle against Annie and Oakley for the fate of Alto Mare. Can Ash and his friends help Latias and Latios protect Alto Mare from the evil of Annie and Oakley? Will Jessie, James, Meowth, and Wobbuffet ever be more than just comic relief? Will Brock ever get the girl?
As with the previous 4 movies, those who are already Pokemon fans will derive the most enjoyment out of "Pokemon Heroes." Those who are not already fans may still enjoy the movie, if they let themselves. I know what it is like to not have any emotional investment in a movie, to the point of apathy or even distaste for the subject matter or the actors within, yet I have seen and actually enjoyed quite a few movies in spite of my initial impressions. Why many people, including kids who once were rabid Pokemon fans but now for whatever reason claim to now hate it, do not approach Pokemon in the same way is quite unfortunate.
What is also unfortunate is Miramax's marketing strategy for "Pokemon Heroes." As with "Pokemon 4Ever," Miramax has decided to release "Pokemon Heroes" in only a handful of theaters (196 on opening weekend) with a minimum of promotion. I am guessing that it is because they are trying to bolster sales of the future VHS/DVD release by firing up anticipation for it, and what better way to get anticipation up than by making the movie available to only a small number of theaters? Personally, I think it's a lousy way to market a popular franchise, and I hope that 4Kids Entertainment will find another distributor for the 6th Pokemon movie, because this so-called "dynamic" marketing strategy Miramax claims to have had for "Pokemon 4Ever" and "Pokemon Heroes" is a bunch of hooey.